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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

From Today's Papers - 31 Jul 2012
Army orders probe into Bandipora man’s killing
SRINAGAR: The Army on Monday ordered a probe into the killing of a man in Bandipora in north Kashmir, which had triggered protests in the Valley.

Hilal Ahmad Dar (24) was allegedly killed in an encounter with the 27 Rashtriya Rifles soldiers on July 24. The army claimed he was a terrorist but the residents maintained that Dar was an innocent civilian, who worked for a cement factory in Srinagar.

After the arrest of two people in connection with the Dhar's murder on Sunday, the J&K police said it was a planned murder. Cops said they have arrested an army informer, Muhammad Ramzan Bhat, who got Dar killed allegedly for monetary benefits and his aide Nazir Ahmed Bhat.

In the wake of the two arrests, the army on Monday ordered a probe by a senior officer into the killing, defence spokesman Lt Col J S Brar said.
Antony writes to PM over wages and pension of services men
New Delhi: Stating that there was "growing discontent" among armed forces personnel over anomalies in pay-related matters, Defence Minister A K Antony has written a letter to the Prime Minister saying if "corrective action" is not taken, the issue might take a "bad turn".

After the letter was sent, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted a high level-committee under the Cabinet Secretary to address issues such as One Rank One Pension (OROP) and elevation of all Lieutenant General-rank officers into a higher pay scale. In the letter written on June 25, sources said the Defence Minister has written that "there is growing discontentment among the services personnel due to the anomalies in fixation of payment and salaries."

Pushing the case for accepting the demands of serving and retired soldiers, Antony pointed out that the service personnel, ex-servicemen and family pensioners are "equally agitated" over the anomalies in their salaries.
He told the Prime Minister that "unless we take corrective action, things may take a bad turn."

On July 13, the Prime Minister formed a six-member committee under Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, which has been asked by the government to finalise its recommendations and submit its report to Manmohan Singh by August 8.

For serving defence personnel, the committee will look into the issues of having a common pay scale for serving Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs), placing all Lieutenant General-rank officers under the higher pay scale grade of Higher Administrative Group Plus (HAG+).

For the large community of ex-servicemen, the government has tasked the committee to consider the issue of One-Rank-One-Pension which has been the main demand of the services personnel and has seen a lot of them returning their service and gallantry medals to the President in the last few years as a mark of protest.
Assam violence: Was the Army deployed too late? Home ministry to take up the issue with the Prime Minister
New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has taken a very serious view of the fact that the Indian Army took five days to deploy force in Assam, as the riots spread despite repeated pleas and reminders from the state government. The issue is likely to be taken up with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also represents Assam in the Parliament.

The law clearly states that the highest ranking executive magistrate, who is present at the site of violence, can requisition the Army to deal with a riot-like situation and disperse mobs. The Army, however, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), devised a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that requires it to take a prior clearance from the MoD before deployment. It is not clear yet when, why or who had cleared this SOP. "This procedure is flawed and is against the law of the land and needs to scrapped immediately," a senior official told NDTV. The MHA wants this SOP to be scrapped and wants the Prime Minister to take up the issue with Defence Minister AK Antony.

Sources told NDTV that the first request from the state government to the Army for help was sent by the District Magistrate of Kokrajhar on July 20. The local Army units, however, informed the state government that it was unable to deploy till a clearance from the MoD and the Army Headquarters. The next day, the state home department wrote a letter to the Ministry of Defence. Unfortunately, even then the letter wasn't acted upon. On July 23 the Deputy Commissioner of Dhubri also requisitioned the Army as the violence started spreading from Kokrajhar. The following day, on the July 24, the state administration sent another reminder to the MoD, and also informed the MHA, that its repeated pleas for deployment of the Army hadn't been either acknowledged or acted upon.
Shocked at the lack of urgency, even as violence spread to other part of the state, the MHA wrote letters that very day. The Union Home Secretary RK Singh also wrote a strongly-worded letter to his counterpart - Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma - reminding him of the legal obligations of the armed forces to act in aid to the civil authority. Late on July 24 night the Army deployments were cleared. The Army was finally deployed on July 25 at about 8 am in the morning.

By the time the Army was deployed, over 50 people had been killed. The maximum number of killings took place between July 21 and 23. What has perhaps annoyed the Centre is that the Army is present in adequate numbers in Assam for counter-insurgency duties and the turn around to law and order mode should have been easy. The 11 Brigade of the Indian Army is positioned in Kokrajhar looks after lower Assam. In contrast, para-military units of the CRPF, BSF and ITBP had to be moved from across the country.
Security threat at an all time high: Pallam Raju
BANGALORE: The increasing perceived threat to the national security as the international forces withdraw from Afghanistan - coupled with challenges faced in resolving the border disputes with China and constant needling by Pakistan -is keeping the Indian army on its feet, as the security threat to the country is at an all-time high, said Pallam Raju, minister of state, ministry of defence, recently at an aerospace event in Bangalore.

"We surely need to shore up our defensive and offensive capabilities," he said.

Speaking at the sidelines of an aerospace and defence summit, Raju said that the defense budget is pegged at Rs 1, 93,000 crores in the current financial year.

The defense budget has been growing at an average of 12 percent, as the military keeps itself updated with latest technology to counter external threats.

"The capital expenditure which mostly caters to modernization equipments of our defense forces accounted for Rs 69,199 crores in 2011-12 and is budgeted at Rs 79,579 crores in 2012-13. The overall need to modernize defence capabilities of our armed forces is expected to lead to increased purchases of new equipments and technology during the 12th plan and thereafter," he said.

In March 2012, China announced an 11 percent rise in its defense budget, to 670.274 billion Yuan, over the expenditures in 2011.
Raju said that the defence electronics sector is set to see a high growth during the 12th plan period. "While the navy and IAF are likely to contribute about 15 percent each, 70 percent of the demand will come from army," he said. "The total defence capital budget allocation during the 12th plan is likely to be Rs 4,45,500 crore while the defense electronic purchases in the next 10 years is estimated to be Rs 6,00,000 crores," he added.

The MOS for Defence said that there is a great deal of emphasis given to increase the country's self reliance on defence technology and research and development in this field. "Defense research units, companies on field and private sector need to contribute together under the facilitation of the government," Raju said.

He said that the government is working towards a proposed center for defence electronics - a center for excellence to run on PPP-model or public-private partnership - to facilitate the electronic technology.

In the wake of the recent scams that have tarred the image of defense PSUs, Raju said that the ministry of defense has given strict instructions to defense PSUs to be transparent in their dealings especially while identifying their vendors and doing joint ventures.

"We don't want any scope for irregularities, especially since the recent incidents have made people point fingers at the ministry of defence," he said.

He added that the internal security situation is one of the biggest hurdles to the progress of the nation. "We also have to prepare ourselves against hacking and malware by building up domestic industrial base in the hardware sector to ensure that there is no breach in security anywhere," he added.

Speaking on the acquisition of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft ( MMRCA), with the defence ministry giving the green signal to the evaluation process that led to selection of the French Rafale fighter, Raju said, "The proposal has to pass through ministry of finance and cabinet committee though it is still with the ministry of defence currently. Though, we want to finish the whole procedure as soon as possible, we are just following the procedures which are taking time. We want to be very sure to avoid cases of irregularities as it will affect us adversely."
In signs of PLA shift, Chinese Defence Minister proposes India visit
 China’s Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie has expressed his keenness to visit New Delhi this year to cement defence ties with India before the once-in-decade leadership transition gets under way in Beijing, Chinese sources have told The Hindu.

General Liang will likely visit New Delhi in September, shortly before the 18th Party Congress — scheduled for October or November — opens in Beijing to finalise the leadership transition when the 71-year-old Minister is set to step aside.

His trip will mark the highest-level visit to India from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since 2005, when he last visited the Indian capital as the PLA’s Chief of General Staff.

The sources said the Indian government responded positively to his proposal and was firming up dates.

The PLA’s eagerness to schedule a high-level visit has been seen as a shift in how it handles ties with India. Indian officials have been struck by the recent moves to reach out to India following several years of strained military-to-military relations that even saw defence exchanges suspended in 2010 for more than one year.

Exchanges were suspended in July 2010 after the PLA refused to host the then head of the Northern Command, Lieutenant General B.S. Jaswal, on the grounds that he was serving in the “sensitive” region of Jammu and Kashmir. The refusal was seen as reflecting an increasingly hard-line approach at a time when Chinese officials appeared uninterested in taking forward defence ties with India.

In a reflection of how ties have markedly changed since, the PLA this month hosted an Indian military delegation on a rare visit to Tibet for the first time in many years. The delegation was hosted by the Chengdu Military Region, responsible for guarding the disputed border with India. In the past, the PLA has been wary of opening up bases in Tibet to visits from India, given China’s sensitivities over the region and the border dispute.

And, last month, four Indian naval ships visited Shanghai in the biggest-ever such exchange with China. Vice-Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, flew in from New Delhi to hold talks with the PLA Navy’s highest ranked official in charge of its East Sea fleet, Vice-Admiral Su Zhiqian, marking the highest-level naval exchange in many years.

In recent talks, the Chinese side has also impressed upon their Indian counterpart the need to broaden military contact. The PLA has proposed the permanent stationing of Indian Air Force and Navy attachés in the Embassy in Beijing and expressed its desire to post Air Force and Naval attachés in New Delhi. At present, only one defence attaché of Colonel rank is stationed by both countries in each other’s capitals. China has also suggested posting officers of a higher Brigadier rank.

While India has agreed in principle to a proposal to station two additional officers, the moves were understood to have been held up on account of budgetary constraints cited by India’s Defence Ministry.

Why the PLA has stepped up efforts to engage with India in recent months remains unclear. The moves come at a time of rising strains in defence ties between China and several of its neighbours. Disputes with Japan over islands in the East China Sea have resurfaced, while Chinese vessels have had run-ins with ships from Vietnam and Philippines in the South China Sea.

General Liang’s visit, when confirmed, will likely be the only high-level bilateral visit from China to India this year, the sources said, with Beijing increasingly preoccupied with its leadership transition.
BSF to seek GSI, Army expertise for uncovering Indo-Pak tunnel

Jammu: Having failed to make any headway in uncovering the 400-mt-long tunnel from Pakistan into India in Jammu and Kashmir's Samba sector, BSF has sought help from Army, Geological Survey of India and geo-physics and seismology experts for the task.

"We have requested experts of Army, GSI, geo-physics and seismology besides geology and mining to conduct digging and excavation work to find out the extension and opening of the tunnel," IG BSF (Headquarters, New Delhi) S K Mishra told reporters at Chillary border fencing area on International Border (IB), over 60 km from here today.

Help would be also sought from satellite imagery from ISRO, he said before the border guarding force took necessary action.
The BSF suspended excavation work on Monday to uncover the tunnel after 48-hour-long operation in Chachwal village due to rains that filled the trench dug by the para-military force.

"Tunnel portions are filled with rain water ... work was stopped," he said. "We have been digging the tunnel further ... we do not know where the tunnel is going, where is its opening point .... we have not found out so far," he said.

"The alignment (of the tunnel) is straight to border fencing ... it is going across. So far we have got to the middle of the tunnel .... we do not know beyond," the IG said.

He said, "We have requested experts from Army to excavate it further so that we can know where is its opening and where is it going .... that we have to do urgently."

"One tunnel has been detected. We do not know whether there are more tunnels. So we have sent requests to for GSI, geology and mining experts to find details of the tunnel," he said.

"We will definitely inform ISRO for satellite imagery," he said, adding that a seismic survey could be carried out as well.
Army Chief Bikram Singh to Visit Jaipur
Army Chief General Bikram Singh would be visiting Army's South-Western Command here tomorrow, his first visit to the command after his appointment as Chief of Army staff.

"This will be his first visit to the command after taking over as the Chief of Army staff. He will stay here till August 1," defence spokesperson S D Goswami said.

"The Army Chief would address all officers of Jaipur station to apprise them of his vision and key thrust areas of the Indian Army, as also the external and internal security, challenges that are likely to emerge in the short and long term perspective," the spokesperson said.

The Army Chief will be accompanied by his wife Bubbles Singh, the president of Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA), Goswami said.

General Bikram Singh also plans to interact with Veterans at Jaipur, apprising them of various measures undertaken towards enhancement of welfare of ex-servicemen, he said.

President of Central AWWA is scheduled to interact with families in the Command where she would personally meet them and inform them of the implementation of welfare and growth-oriented schemes under the initiatives of AWWA, he said.

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